Red Review #49 -- International Left and Labour News
With news from Greece, Australia, Panama, India, Canada, Colombia, Swaziland, Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and elsewhere.
There are also a number of updates related to the Starbucks and Amazon unionization drives in the USA and a section regarding the war in Ukraine.
Workers of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions march March 14 in West Bengal, India in support of the upcoming General Strike being called for March 28-29 -- image via Twitter
Opposition parties in Tripura – the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or the CPI(M), and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) – have alleged that their activists and offices have been targeted with political violence in the state after election results were declared on March 10, Thursday.
According to PTI, the CPI(M) alleged that as many as 39 attacks were carried out on party offices, houses of CPI(M) leaders and supporters in Agartala after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) poll victory in four states.
CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Chowdhury, in a letter addressed to chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb on March 11, said, “In a parliamentary democracy, elections do take place and one party wins. It is natural that the winning party leaders, workers and supporters will rejoice. But setting opponent’s offices on fire and ransacking their houses amounts to gross violence of democratic rights.”
In what is being described as an "historic breakthrough" for the left, the Pacto Histórico por Colombia (PHxC) won the most votes in the congressional elections and took a significant block of seats in both houses of Colombia's Congress overall on Sunday, March 13. The PHxC is a coalition of leftist parties formed in 2021. In the party's presidential primary vote leftist candidate Gustavo Petro won a resounding victory with over 80% of the vote.
Petro is considered the front runner in the upcoming May presidential elections.
The first tractors have been assembled at the Veneminsk and Mazven plants as Venezuela moves into a new phase of economic recovery.
The tractor factory, situated in Hugo Chávez’s birthplace of Barinas, has been reactivated with support from Belarus, as a result of agreements reached in the Venezuela-Belarus High-Level Mixed Commission in December. Officials of the two countries took a tour of the plant on Monday.
Unifor revealed Monday, March 14 that when Jerry Dias abruptly resigned as its president three days before, citing “health problems,” he had been under investigation for well over a month for “an alleged breach” of the union’s constitution.
In a terse statement that scrupulously avoided providing any specifics regarding the case against Dias, Canada’s largest industrial union said Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne had received a written complaint against Dias on January 26. “Following review of the complaint,” continued the statement, “Payne promptly initiated an independent external investigation. On January 29, 2022, Dias was notified of the investigation, which is ongoing.
Starbucks Workers United has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Starbucks has been cutting workers’ hours nationwide in a deliberate union-busting campaign.
“These hours cuts are in swift response to workplace organizing campaigns at Starbucks stores around the country,” wrote the union, which has organized more than 130 stores across 27 states, in its formal complaint. The complaint asked for an immediate injunction against the ongoing hour reductions.
In a survey of its members, Starbucks Workers United says that workers have lost anywhere between two and 15 hours from their schedules each week. Starbucks requires at least 20 hours worked per week to maintain eligibility for benefits.
The complaint says that the reductions have happened in at least 20 states, including Maryland, Florida, New York, Ohio, Colorado, California, and Texas.
Trade unions affiliated to the Congress and Left parties on Monday served a strike notice on the Singareni Collieries Corporation Limited (SCCL) management, to protest against the proposed auction of four coal blocks. The strike is part of the nationwide agitation against certain policies of the Centre.
The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the Hind Mazdoor Sangh (HMS) and the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) have served notice for a strike on March March 28 and 29.
Online food delivery company Zomato's distribution agents in Thiruvananthapuram have started an indefinite strike demanding fair wages and employee benefits. The delivery agents of India's 'largest food aggregator' blame the company's new reforms for slashing down on employee benefits. As the fuel prices go uphill, the delivery agents get scanty benefits despite working for more than 12 hours and riding more than 180 km a day.
A section of the delivery agents started an indefinite strike, going offline from Friday. On Saturday, the agents on strike met Kerala Labour Minister V Sivankutty and submitted a memorandum. The minister assured government intervention after consulting with the Labour Commissioner. The delivery agents have also submitted a memorandum to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
Bolivian bakers will be able to continue producing bread at a stable price for the coming year amid a worldwide wheat supply shortage.
The Minister of Productive Development and Plural Economy, Néstor Huanca, informed on Sunday that the Food Production Support Company (EMAPA) has stockpiled a volume of 130,000 tons of wheat for the production of 1.6 million quintals this year. The state company will take charge of the flour distribution.
Flour will be guaranteed for the country’s bakery sector and the price of the marraqueta bread will remain at 50 Bolivian cents (with a lower set price in certain regions), as outlined in an agreement made between the government and the bakery sector in January. EMAPA’s coordinator, Franklin Flores, says that Luis Arce’s government “will not allow an increase in the price of bread” between now and December.
Child protection workers who engage with some of the state’s most at-risk youth participated in snap walk-outs on Tuesday in protest of understaffing and workload concerns.
About 95 per cent of the 160 workers who took part in a lunchtime union meeting at 1pm voted to take immediate industrial action which included walk-outs at Perth, Fremantle and Joondalup.
Security staff at various airports across Germany went for a work stoppage on Monday and Tuesday, March 14 and 15, demanding a hike in their hourly wages. Under the leadership of the Verdi trade union, the workers staged strikes at airports in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Bremen, Hannover, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Munich, and other places, causing large-scale disruption in the flight schedules and leading to cancellation of hundreds of flights. The workers went on strike after negotiations between the union and the Federal Association of Aviation Security companies (BDLS) for wage hike and pay parity in different sectors failed.
Rest assured that the Cuban Revolution will never surrender, stated Party First Secretary and President of the Republic Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, addressing progressive journalists, political activists and expert social media influencers participating in the international colloquium for the 130th anniversary of the newspaper Patria, founded by José Martí.
President Nicolas Maduro has revealed that Venezuela will be launching its own social network amid increasing censorship of the airwaves and online platforms by several governments corporations. The revelation was heard at this evening’s Productive Wednesdays activity which was dedicated to the 6th anniversary of the Local Committees for Supply and Production (CLAP) program.
School teachers across Hungary started an indefinite strike on Wednesday, March 16, demanding better salaries, more staff, reduction in workload, and better working conditions. The strike was called by the Teachers Union (PSZ) and the Democratic Union of Teachers (PDSZ) after months-long failed negotiations with the state, as well as a legal battle. On Thursday, students from various schools in the Hungarian capital Budapest rallied at the Kosuth square in solidarity with the teachers’ strike.
More than 60 workers across three Amazon delivery stations staged a walkout on Wednesday to demand a $3 raise and a return to 20-minute breaks, according to one of the labour organizers leading the effort.
Ellie Pfeffer, an organizer and warehouse associate at an Amazon delivery station called ZYO1 in Queens, New York, said five people walked out of her station Wednesday in a shift that only has nine workers. She said 28 employees walked out of another station in the borough, called DBK1, and 30 more at the DMD9 station in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
The protest is being organized by a group of Amazon warehouse workers called Amazonians United, which said in a statement that its demands were first brought up in December through a coordinated petition among six Amazon warehouses in the East Coast. The group claims “rather than responding in good faith in the months since raising the issue, management has attempted to illegally intimidate and remove participants in collective actions from their warehouses.”
Workers at a Starbucks in Murfreesboro are among the latest joining a nationwide labor organizing push at the coffee chain.
Employees at the Fortress Boulevard location filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a union election under the umbrella of Workers United. If successful, the store would be the first unionized Starbucks in Middle Tennessee.
More than 100 Starbucks locations have initiated unionizing efforts since late last year, including prominent efforts in Memphis and Knoxville.
Kim Jong Un , general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, inspected the construction site of 10 000 flats in the Songsin and Songhwa areas nearing completion.
Accompanying him were Jo Yong Won, member of the Presidium of Political Bureau and secretary for Organizational Affairs of the Central Committee of the WPK, RiIl Hwan and O Su Yong, secretaries of the WPK Central Committee, and vice department directors of the WPK Central Committee.
The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un was greeted on the spot by Kim Jong Gwan, first vice-minister of National Defence, Pak Hun, vice-premier of the Cabinet, leading officials of designing institutions at all levels and leading officials of the construction units which took part in the construction of the 10 000 flats.
On Thursday, the "Zero Evictions" Campaign called on Brazilians to take to the streets to protest against the forced eviction of families from their homes.
A Supreme Court decision suspending forced evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic expires on March 31. If this protective measure is not prolonged, half a million low-income people will be evicted from their homes.
For this reason, human rights defenders and social activists organized rallies in 21 cities, including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Salvador, Maceio, Fortaleza, Manaus, Belem, Florianopolis, Porto Alegre, and Curitiba. To show the magnitude of the problem, the Zero Evictions campaign pointed out that 42,499 families can be evicted in the state of Sao Paulo alone.
On Thursday, Panamanian trade unions took to the streets to demand an increase in minimum wages, which seeks to counteract fuels and food prices increasing due to the Russia - Ukraine armed conflict.
After a 12-hour hearing on Tuesday, Honduras’ Supreme Court Judge Edwin Ortez authorized the extradition of former President Juan Orlando Hernandez (2014-2022) to the U.S. over drug trafficking and weapon use charges.
The Telegraph has apologised and paid £40,000 in damages for falsely describing a former aide to Jeremy Corbyn as an “anti-Jewish racist” and part of the “vile antisemitism of Corbyn’s Labour”.
The allegations about Laura Murray, which the Telegraph has accepted were untrue and without basis, were contained in an opinion piece by the former Labour MP and current independent peer Ian Austin, who has also apologised.
Unions across the UK have slammed “one of the most shameful acts” in British industrial history today as P&O ferries were reportedly evicting staff from vessels in handcuffs after 800 workers were fired without notice.
The unions representing P&O workers, Nautilus International and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), had instructed their shocked members to remain on board and said many refused to leave their ships in protest after they appeared to have been told about the sudden redundancies on a video call. According to RMT, the company seeks to replace the staff with cheaper agency workers from overseas.
The union confirmed it had received reports of private security officers at Dover seeking to board ships with handcuffs to remove crew. Security had also been sent onto one ship docked at Larne Harbour in Northern Ireland to evict staff, RMT said.
Whilst international media coverage understandably focused on President Xi Jinping’s March 18 telephone conversation with US President Biden, the Chinese leader also held two other important conversations that day with leaders of countries that have particularly friendly relations with China.
Speaking with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Xi said that their two countries “share a special friendly relationship of comrades and brothers”. This phrase is particularly significant – whilst it has been used several times by the Chinese leadership to describe their ties with South Africa, it is highly unusual, if not unique, for China to describe its state relations with a non-socialist country as embracing comradeship. In this context, it is worth noting that the friendship between the Communist Party of China and the African National Congress of South Africa date back to at least 1953, when Nelson Mandela sent ANC Secretary General Walter Sisulu to China to gain support for the steadily building anti-apartheid struggle, following Sisulu’s participation in the fourth World Festival of Youth and Students in Romania. China consistently supported the South African people’s struggle against apartheid and for national liberation.
President Xi further said that the relationship with South Africa is of great significance both for China/Africa relations as well as solidarity and cooperation among developing countries. The two leaders also exchanged views on the development of the BRICS grouping, which links Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and which China chairs this year. They noted that their two countries share a very close position on the conflict in Ukraine, standing for dialogue and negotiation. There have been a number of suggestions that South Africa could play an important role in this regard. Clearly alluding to the US pressures that both countries are facing, the two leaders agreed that sovereign countries are entitled to independently decide on their own positions.
The same day, President Xi also spoke with Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen, with a key focus being their bilateral Belt and Road Cooperation. Xi stressed that China would pay particular attention to developing roads and education in Cambodia’s rural areas so as to help develop agriculture and lift farmers out of poverty. Noting that next year will see the 65th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, President Xi said that their ties had become even more unbreakable whilst Prime Minister Hun Sen described the two countries as true ironclad brothers. Discussion also centred on the prospects for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), to which both belong, and relations between China and ASEAN, a ten-country bloc of South East Asian nations that Cambodia chairs this year.
Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) activists were this afternoon, Friday 18 March 2022, at around 17:00 detained by Big Bend police in Swaziland. The three CPS activists were connecting from Manzini to the Lubombo region, east of Swaziland, as part of the CPS mission to mobilise communities and raise political awareness of the need for democracy in Swaziland.
A group of over 15 police officers harassed our Comrades and confiscated CPS material. The comrades refused to board the police van in spite of reinforcement from the police.
The CPS warns police against such acts and calls upon the Big Bend station commander, Mr Ntjakala, to cooperate with us in recovering our material and give good advice to his unit to not act callously as the situation in the country remains uncertain.
Verizon retail workers in the Pacific Northwest say the company is pulling out all the stops to crush their efforts to form a union. In interviews, they said the company has been flying in executives and consultants as part of an intimidation campaign.
Meanwhile, employees were just banned from discussing unions on a private online bulletin board — all as Verizon has been funding a right-wing advocacy group spearheading the campaign to block worker rights’ legislation in Congress.
A Starbucks in Astoria has announced plans to unionize, the first location in Queens to do so.
Workers at the 30-18 Astoria Blvd. store sent a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announcing their intention to form a union and their legal right to do so.
“Starbucks continues to cling to an outdated reputation as a progressive corporation, yet during a period of record company revenues, these profits are not reflected where it matters most,” the letter reads. “Through the global pandemic we have been faced with increased responsibilities, questionable health and safety protocols, and irregular hours, with inadequate compensation to show for it.”
The Astoria Starbucks is part of a wave of unionization across the country, with workers in more than 100 locations in more than 19 states organizing unions. The first Starbucks location to unionize was in Buffalo, NY, in December.
CTV News has learned several Skip The Dishes drivers in Sudbury staged a one-day strike Friday.
Almost 300 drivers for the food delivery service in the city took action to get the company's attention. The drivers are not unionized.
"We always send emails to Skip The Dishes but they are not replying and supporting us," said Naresh a driver for the food delivery company.
"So our main concern is to only strike for Friday today but if our problem is not solved, then we will see, then you will see more strikes in future, too."
Australia: Labor takes power in SA election victory
Labor has won a comfortable victory in the South Australian election, ousting the Liberal government after just one term that was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
By late on Saturday night, Labor had won at least 25 seats, one more than is required to form a majority government.
Incoming premier Peter Malinauskas thanked the people of South Australia in a powerful victory speech.
Albania is witnessing widespread protests due to rising fuel and food prices. Protests started in the second week of March and have intensified over the last week in different parts of the country. On Saturday, March 19, a major mobilization took place in the capital city of Tirana where thousands marched from the Skanderbeg Square to the prime minister’s office. In some places, police action was used to suppress the protests. More than 200 protesters were also arrested last week.
After a year-and-a-half war in Sahara, where our Sahrawi brothers and sisters are being mistreated, arrested and/or murdered, the PSOE-UP Government attacks again and shows its cards, refusing once more the right to self-determination to the Sahrawi people and submitting to the wants of the Moroccan Government.
The PCTE expresses its full support to the Sahrawi people, the Polisario Front, and the Sahrawi People's Liberation Army in this new aggression. It points out to the Government of social democracy as the direct accomplice of the conflict, as it participates in the violation of all rights in Western Sahara. At the same time, it demands the Spanish Government to fulfill its historic responsibilities to Western Sahara and abandon its joint war and colonization policy with Morocco.
CP Rail shutdown begins as talks continue and farmers brace for potential fallout TCRC, which represents some 3,000 engineers, conductors, yard workers and other train employees, issued a release just before midnight saying a lockout was being initiated by management at the Calgary-based railway.
"As Canadians grapple with a never-ending pandemic, exploding commodity prices and the war in Ukraine, the rail carrier is adding an unnecessary layer of insecurity, especially for those who depend on the rail network," the statement said.
The union then issued a subsequent release that said in addition to the lockout, TCRC members were also on strike throughout the country, with picketing underway at various Canadian Pacific locations.
Army soldiers kidnapped two children of a National Organizer of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS), Ayanda Ndwandwe, on Sunday, March 20. About 40 soldiers, “armed-to-teeth” and driving four armored vehicles, “invaded his home” in the rural area of Lubulini in the Lubombo Region at around 3 pm, the banned party said in a statement.
The party believes that the contingent of soldiers had most likely come to Ndwandwe’s home with the intent to arrest him. When they did not find him at home, they instead abducted his cousin, a 23-year-old woman, along with his two children, who are three and five years old. They were held in custody for several hours before being released later in the day, Manqoba Motsa, a Central Committee (CC) member of the CPS, told Peoples Dispatch.
“Comrade Ayanda was critical in helping the rural community in the region organize themselves for their welfare and security. He also had an important role to play outside of his region as a member of the party’s National Organizing Committee,” he said.
The children who were kidnapped by Mswati’s security forces yesterday, Sunday 20 March, at Lubulini community, east of Swaziland, are now back with their relatives.
When the soldiers kidnaped the children, the three-year-old cried hysterically and was rescued by neighbours. The soldiers then took the five-year-old boy together with a 23-year-old and another relative of Comrade Ayanda Ndwande, an organiser of the Communist Party of Swaziland.
Thousands of nurses are considering walking off the job for the second time in just over six weeks while paramedics will roll out industrial work bans in yet another sign of growing unrest in the state’s public sector.
Nurses are voting on a statewide strike for March 31, which could run up to 24 hours, as they seek a 4.75 per cent pay rise, nurse to patient ratios on every shift and a boost to maternity staffing.
It is the latest escalation in the continuing stalemate between the government and the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association over pay and conditions.
As the war in Ukraine continues the danger of an historic betrayal of the international working class and humanity by the European and North American Left akin to that of 1914 is growing larger.
It is time to put to rest the idea that Canada and its allies are not at war with Russia. Ongoing debates regarding the dangers of a no-fly zone miss the point. Canada and its NATO allies do not need to intervene directly in this conflict – nor must they issue a formal declaration – to be at war with Russia. Indeed, by NATO formally stating it would not impose a no-fly zone, the alliance has created the impression that everything short of that might be reasonable and less risky. In reality, those alternatives are equally confrontational and counterproductive.
In yet another assault on dissenting political views in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a ban on the activities of major opposition political parties in the country after alleging that they have links with Russia. He also announced the merger of all TV channels in the country in the name of implementing a “unified information policy”, thus creating a government monopoly over the medium.
Citing the need to maintain the unity of the country, Zelensky claimed in a statement that “the National Security and Defense Council decided, given the full-scale war unleashed by Russia and the political ties that a number of political structures have with this state, to suspend any activity of a number of political parties for the period of martial law.”
Zelensky also announced the shutting down of all other TV channels in the country and merging them with the national TV. He claimed that the move will help implement a “unified information policy” under martial law. Ukraine has already banned the broadcast of Russian TV channels.
Numerous political events of the KKE and KNE against the imperialist war in Ukraine are taking place all over Greece, from Crete to Alexandroupolis. The mass political events of the KKE are being held to illuminate the people around the character and the causes of war, which are also highlighted in the recent Resolution of the CC of the KKE, as well as to strengthen the demand for the disengagement of Greece from imperialist war, for the closure of US–NATO bases, for the return home of all the sections of Greek armed forces in missions abroad, for the disentanglement of Greece from imperialist plans and unions, with the people being masters in their own land.
At the same time, members of the KKE and KNE are holding anti-war activities outside of military camps and ports, which are a passage for imperialist troops. Such activities took place in Alexandroupolis, Xanthi, Chania, Larissa, and Piraeus. In the Piraeus port, the protesters threw red paint at a NATO ship.
On 20/3, the Base Organizations of the KKE and KNE in Kallithea (a region in Athens) made an intervention–response to the vandalism of the monument of the Soviet soldier in Kallithea.
From early morning, the forces of the KKE and KNE were present in the region, they decorated the monument with flowers, hung banners condemning the imperialist war in Ukraine, and handed the statement of the Sectoral Organization of Southern Athens and the Party Organizations of Kallithea to passers-by.
On Monday 14/3, student associations and school-student organizations held mass anti-war rallies and other events in Athens, Thessaloniki, and other cities of Greece denouncing imperialist war, both the Russian military invasion of Ukraine and the criminal war plans of the USA, NATO, and the EU. They demanded the immediate disengagement of Greece from imperialist plans.
In Athens, a big concert took place outside the Greek Parliament, where poems by B. Brecht and G. Ritsos were read.
“No to war, no involvement, the peoples demand peace and friendship,” read the banner of the Coordinating Committee of the School-Students of Athens, while the banner of the Student Associations of Athens stressed: “No to the imperialist war in Ukraine, the country’s involvement must stop.”
On 14 March, Dimitris Koutsoumbas, GS of the CC of the KKE, delivered a speech at a political rally in Corinth, noting, among other things: “More than 10 years have passed and the Greek people are still paying for the successive capitalist crises with impoverishment, three memoranda, and hundreds of anti-popular and anti-labour laws. They also pay for the recovery by constantly making new sacrifices to shield the profitability of a few business groups.
Now they are being told that they must pay the price of Greece’s participation in imperialist war. To pay ‘the price of participation in the war for freedom’, as the Prime Minister, K. Mitsotakis, said.